What role does mentorship play in career growth?



17 May 2023 01:20pm
Illustrative photo: 123rf
Illustrative photo: 123rf

Ever felt “stuck” at your job? According to most researches done across the world, more than 70 per cent of people have felt or experienced this in their career pathway. Believe it or not, this would be the best time for you to find a mentor in order to accelerate your career growth.

Imagine having someone by your side, motivating you along the way, guiding and opening more doors for you to achieve your goals because they have “been there” and “done that.”

You might be thinking that it is not a priority because of your busy schedule, current heavy workload, limited resources and the list goes on and on. Think again.

The need for career mentoring can be recognized as early as high school or undergraduate level. Seniors can be struggling through their tertiary level studies applications, aiming to craft the perfect profile to fit the criterion of their dream placements too late in the process. I had two different tertiary level placements and two different courses undertaken before I found the perfect fit for me. Had I had help from a mentor, I would have jumpstarted and catapulted that pathway. Lesson learnt! Not repeating that again.

Here are some helpful questions you can ask your mentor along the way in order to gain more insight;

What was your experience learning that course/ working at that organisation?

How would you have done things better/ differently?

Do you have any feedbacks on my current performance?

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Most importantly, you need to set personal expectations; both short and long term with your mentor. Define the elements of successful mentoring from the very beginning. Even your definition of a failed mentorship would help. Basic dealings such as the frequency of the meetings scheduled, topics to be discussed and outcomes should be set early on between the two of you.

However, be aware that the best mentors are accountable. They comprehend that they have a huge responsibility not to transform your potential into what the mentor sees where it should go but to be detached from that and making sure it is in your best interest. Not the mentor’s!

Mentors should also be honest, trustworthy, and active listeners.

Moreover, those who just got into the industry and secured a position in any organisation, be it fresh graduates or people who just switched career pathways require effective mentors who have professional experience including networks of colleagues and collaborators that can facilitate your career development. These effective mentors know the system so that they can give good advice because not many would really understand the system.

In contrast, a reverse mentoring relationship can also be done where the younger ones lead and focus on issues such as technology use, staying current with trends in industry, and awareness on the different generational gaps in order to overcome issues in the workplace. The key is to tailor to the needs and reach the objective.

So, why do most mentor-mentee programmes in schools and universities fail?

Well, for one, lack of open communication because it was built based on forced relationship, lack of time commitment, personality differences or difference in common values, and perceived competition as the senior might feel threatened (thus you having to find one with no overlapping interest). Most importantly, mentor’s lack of knowledge and experience in the field you are interested in as well as their failure to recognise your strength and success could also hinder development.

Obviously, once you know what role mentorship plays, you should also be aware what mentorship is not.

Mentors do not give direct orders or advice but credible suggestions for you to act upon. They too, might not be a certified therapist although they can be good listeners to your past traumas. It is also not a relationship whereby a leader is grooming a successor; in fact, the relationship is driven by the mentee.

Finally, mentoring partnership can be rewarding to both people, personally and professionally. It is an opportunity to develop your confidence, communication skills, expand your viewpoints, and consider new ways of approaching situations. Both can advance their careers from mentoring sessions, be it one-to-one session or in a group.

“When is the right time to seek a mentor?”

Now is always the best time. Although any time can be a good time, mentorship becomes more meaningful when you have a career goal set in mind.

These goals range from overcoming knowledge, skills, confidence or resource gaps, to gaining clarity on career choices, to identification and application of core strengths, and explaining gaps in resume.

SYAZUIN SAZALI is a Subject Matter Expert in soft skills. She aims to continuously advocate for progressive growth in education. Linkedin & Instagram: @syazuinsazali, Email: [email protected]

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.